Live Review – Boo Hewerdine at Sage Gateshead
After seeing the array of effects peddles that were littering the front of the stage before the house lights dimmed, I was a little surprised when only one person; a singer-songwriter called John Aston aka Little Gem walked onto the stage and my heart sank when I saw that he was wearing the de-facto uniform of today’s Americana acts – a full beard, trucker cap at a jaunty angle, over sized plaid shirt, ‘carrot’ chinos (tight at the ankle and baggy around the arse!) and a pair of hi-top trainers Aston was also swigging from a Guinness can for added ‘cool.’
His songs, for what it’s worth, were dreadful, mumbled and lacked direction with no discernable tune attached to anything. At different times as many as three effects pedals were used at the same time; but they only seemed to distract Ashton with no noticeable difference to the overall sound.
Boo Hewerdine on the other hand was the consummate professional; engaging his fans from the instant he stood in front of the microphone and without the aid of a myriad of gizmos he filled every nook and cranny of the magnificent Hall II of the Sage with only his voice, acoustic guitar and Finn McArdle’s Tabla.
The performance began with a beautiful rendition of World’s End and swiftly followed by Patience of Angels which was a ‘hit’ for Eddi Reader and prompted Boo to remark at the end; “It’s all downhill know.”
To those who haven’t seen him play live before Hewerdine is something of a raconteur with a very dry, self-depreciating sense of humour bordering on the sarcastic; and his fans love him.
Most songs were prefaced with some form of story and quite often McArdle was the butt of the jokes but their friendship goes back many years and the local musician wouldn’t have expected anything else.
As you’d expect with a canon of work that stretches back thirty years not everyone’s favourite song got an airing; which made for a comical thirty minutes when Boo asked the audience for requests and kept turning them down as he wasn’t ‘in the mood’ or they were ‘too obscure’!
Obviously some requests did get played – Honey Be Good and Graceland from his Popstar days in the Bible were both dazzling and well worth waiting 20 years to hear again but there were also calls for songs from his State of the Union act with Brooks Williams and two or three of those got an airing.
As the night wore on Hewerdine also managed to slide in a couple of rare gems that I’d forgotten about – White Lilies which had the hair on the back of my neck standing on end and was sung to complete silence from the thousand or more in the venue and Please Don’t Ask Me To Dance which was another song originally written for Eddi Reader and tonight’s version was so beautiful I saw more than one person dabbing their eyes at the end.
Although Hewerdine is probably best known for his work with Eddi Reader he introduced a song that he’d written for another Scottish singer; Heidi Talbot and it fair took my breath away. The song in question is called Cherokee Rose and definitely lived up to the heartbreaking story he told about the Native American Tribe in its introduction.
The concert ended with a pantomime will he/won’t he do an encore routine which contained a well choreographed look of surprise before he introduced a brand new song called April Blooms which was excellent and bodes well for the next album and then he followed that with possibly the saddest song ever to close a concert – Murder in the Dark about the slow collapse of a marriage; but that’s just part of his cantankerous charm.